The relationship between the Arizona Coyotes and the City of Glendale has been fraught with tension since 2009. Now it all appears to be coming to a head.
Wednesday night, the Glendale City Council voted to cancel the Arena Management Contract for Gila River Arena with Renaissance Sports & Entertainment (RSE) that a prior iteration of the City Council agreed to in 2013. The move by Glendale is rooted in A.R.S. 38-511, which reads:
A. The state, its political subdivisions or any department or agency of either may, within three years after its execution, cancel any contract, without penalty or further obligation, made by the state, its political subdivisions, or any of the departments or agencies of either if any person significantly involved in initiating, negotiating, securing, drafting or creating the contract on behalf of the state, its political subdivisions or any of the departments or agencies of either is, at any time while the contract or any extension of the contract is in effect, an employee or agent of any other party to the contract in any capacity or a consultant to any other party of the contract with respect to the subject matter of the contract.
Put simply, a government has three years after a contract is signed to void the contract if a conflict of interest is discovered that affected the course of negotiations over said contract. In this case, the City of Glendale is likely asserting that Craig Tindall, attorney for the City until February 2013, created a conflict of interest when he joined IceArizona in August of 2013.
There's a lot to unpack here, so let's dive right in.
Conflicts of Interest
Glendale's assertion is likely that Tindall's status on the IceArizona staff represents a conflict of interest, because of his inside knowledge and familiarity with City of Glendale officials at the time the lease was negotiated. There's a small problem with that though:
On the surface, it appears that there's very little for the City of Glendale to argue about as it comes to Tindall's involvement in crafting the agreement, as Tindall left well before RSE began the formal negotiating process with the City.
But looking a little bit deeper, Glendale could piece together a reasonably cohesive legal argument that Tindall did in fact violate A.R.S. 38-511. It has to do with this:
However, reports that Craig Tindall helped draft the current lease agreement are inaccurate. He served in an advisory role. Nothing more.— Craig Morgan (@cmorganfoxaz) June 10, 2015
We likely will not know what Tindall's actual involvement with RSE was until legal briefs are filed in a court (more on this in a bit), but the language of the statute is pretty broad as to what interactions between former public officials and private entities are prohibited. Even if Tindall only served in an advisory role to RSE, a judge could conclude that even that arrangement represents a conflict of interest.
It's difficult to say how this case will go. RSE seems very confident that Glendale has no case, but then again, Glendale seems very confident that they will win. Obviously, both can't be right.
Ultimately, without the legal briefs that contain the evidence Glendale will use to assert wrongdoing on the part of Tindall, picking a victor is like playing poker only knowing half your hand. Once the lawsuit is filed and both parties put their cards on the table, we will get some clarity into the situation, and may be able to more accurately predict if the Coyotes' days are truly numbered in Arizona.